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April 15, 2010

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Aimee

Pastor Adam Barton,

I could not agree more with your comment, "they just don't want to be responsible to God." I know an atheist who would never even entertain the thought that there could be a creator out there. He is an anthropologist and believes in everything Darwin stood for. I just wish people would open their minds and hearts and live for God. I have not seen this person in years, but I still find myself praying for him from time to time. God is love!

Aimee
Akron, Ohio

Timmyson

I do want to address a central misconception to which this post relates:

Signs stating an arguable truth (that millions of people lead moral lives without relying on a deity to make the rules) are being damaged in one case by some pretty heavy machinery. A pair of students were attacked at the University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada) by students professing to be Christian (I think you and I both might have something to say about that label) for putting posters up advertising an atheism-related talk.

Atheists suffer discrimination in the world, increasingly so in some areas, as religion enters more into politics (something else we can blame on jerks crashing planes), and less so in others. However, unlike Christianity, Judaism, homosexuality, liberalism, or any other ism that I can imagine, there are very few organizations which support these people. It can be very difficult to decide that the faith in which you've been brought up doesn't ring true. Many atheists believe that there is a large number of quietly atheistic people out there who are isolated, and this sort of thing is an attempt to give these people a safe place to land.

Some atheists know that we would have really appreciated having a support structure or people they could turn to when they had serious doubts about the presumed faith in which they had been brought up, and so they are trying to reach out to what they believe to be a vulnerable constituency, rather than antagonize believers (though, there are atheists who want to do that, but they use somewhat more direct wording). Just like Christianity, there are moderate, tolerant folks who just want to be able to talk about their view of the cosmos and what it means to them, and there are evangelical, hateful, in-your-face folks who want to make a really big deal out of it (though to the best of my knowledge, I've never heard of an atheist equivalent to picketing abortion clinics or gay soldiers' funerals), and everything in between.

Consider if there were no public church, and the Soviet Union had been a nominally Christian state, so that the propaganda of the youth of a whole generation decried those bible-thumping commies. But you believed that there were people out there who believed, as you do, that Christianity offers a morally sound, deeply personally fulfilling worldview, wouldn't you exercise your free-speech rights to reach out to other people in your situation, so they didn't feel alone when they were questioning?

My apologies if this is rambly, I'm pressed for time, this evening.

Dave

Hello Pastor, I hope this finds you well. I'll share a few of my thoughts here, as an atheist, if you don't mind.

"Frankly, one could argue that there is more intolerance towards Christians in many ways than what atheists experience."

Every major political office in America is unobtainable by an atheist in practical terms, or any non-Christian with the possible exception of a Jew (Joe Lieberman was elected, if not sworn in as, vice president in 2000). There are, last I checked, two atheists and a Muslim in congress, and every Presidential candidate proudly proclaims their Christianity. You guys make up 87% of the population. I'm sorry, but regularly hearing some of the most powerful people in America complain about being a persecuted minority is truly surreal to me. Even Mitt Romney belonging to a slightly different branch of Christianity was an issue in 2008.

"But if one claims to be a Christian, you better have a back-up plan for employment."

Maybe cite some evidence here. If a Christian professor was fired for simply being Christian, I would be first in line to defend him. If he was just doing glorified prosyletizing from his office, that would be different. There are certainly some people in academia who are bigoted against Christians; but most Americans aren't involved in academia and in day to day terms, Christians have the social power, not atheists.

"Perhaps atheists truly believe that belief in a Creator hinders science and a progressive society? Perhaps they feel that "God" is the source of too many wars? Perhaps personal pain or experience has led them to believe that a loving God cannot possibly exist?"

Different atheists have different motivations. I think all of those things are valid, although none of them have any bearing on whether god actually exists, or your version of him in particular, which leads us to...

"I have come to believe that many people choose not to believe in God, not because they think the idea of God is illogical, but because they just don't want to be responsible to God."

I don't know, do you disbelieve in Kali because you don't want to be bothered to do goat sacrifices? Do you disbelieve in Allah simply because you find the idea of ritual prayer and fasting too difficult? Do you disbelieve in Buddhism because the eightfold noble path sounds too difficult? I would think that probably you dismiss these narratives for much the same reason I dismiss yours; I see no reason not to. It's a cliche at this point, but I'll repeat it anyway; we're both atheists in regard to everyone else's gods, I just take it one step further and include yours as well.

As for why it might serve our interests to put up billboards (does the attempted vandalism bother you, by the way?) is that, for many people, atheism simply isn't seen as an option. We want them to know that it's okay to have a life without God. It's bizarre to me that this bugs you guys so much. Most atheists I know have no problem with Christian billboards as such, but you're in the marketplace of ideas and ideas have to stand on something, not the insistence that atheists need to just shut up and pretend not to exist, which is what your argument amounts to.

Take care and have a great weekend.

-Dave

Aimee

Thanks for sharing

Mike, Akron Ohio

Pastor Adam Barton

Dave, I will say you make an excellent point about running for political office. That would indeed be difficult for an atheist. I appreciate your willingness to discuss this issue. Good thoughts and objections.
Thank you,
Pastor Adam Barton
Akron, Ohio

Pastor Adam Barton

Timmyson,
Thank you for the good thoughts. I appreciate what you say, "It can be very difficult to decide that the faith in which you've been brought up doesn't ring true." I also can see how atheists would like to find a support structure of friends and like-minded peers. We all want that. Thank you kindly for your post.
Pastor Adam Barton
Akron, Ohio

Tim Beck

Pastor Adam Barton

I really enjoyed your comments and your perspective on this. It's obvious that this is a passion of yours.

Tim
Akron, Ohio

Pastor Adam Barton

Tim,
Thanks for visiting. Yes, I enjoy this area of study and am glad you are interested.
With appreciation,
Pastor Adam Barton,
Akron, Ohio

Athanasius

Pastor Adam Barton,

thanks for the thought provoking post. I appreciate Dave's comment about running for political office as an atheist. It probably wouldn't fly. If he's correct that a majority of politicians profess to be Christians than it's embarrassing that our government's reputation is one of greed, deception and inefficiency.

Athanasius

Akron, OH

Todd M. Burton

Pastor Adam Barton:

A question I have long pondered. I have found that those who choose not to believe in God have not yet experienced a life changing event or are so scared from one they cannot understand how something that can prevent pain can allow an action to occur. Regardless, it all comes down to a simple faith in something greater than ourselves that can only be gained through self examination.

TB

Akron, Ohio

Pastor Adam Barton

TB, Thanks for the comment. It is interesting what you say involving belief in God and a life changing event. I also think there is some credibility when you say that personal pain can prevent people from believeing in God.

T, you know, we all feel better when we have others that agree with us. I cannot blame atheists for wanting a group of peers and like minded supporters to rally around. Thanks for your comments.

Much appreciation,

Pastor Adam P. Barton

Jason

Pastor Adam Barton,

I've enjoyed reading your posts and the good dialogue that follows. There are just so many reasons to believe rather than be skeptical...

Jason
Akron, OH

Brian

Pastor Adam Barton

This is a lot to take in, I will have to pray about this.

In Him Alone,

Brian

Akron, Ohio

Derek

Pastor Adam Barton,

Another good thought provoking blog. This ties in with the previous blog debating whether faith is just a personal thing. True Christian motivation to convince others of the gospel should be love and concern for eternal welfare of the atheist. Not the need to be right and prove an atheist wrong.

I've always wondered, though, what the motivation is for an atheist to convince others that God does not exist? Is it simply just a defense argument when confronted or is there a reason(s) to convince Christians & other faiths they are wrong?

Hypothetically, if atheists were never confronted and could pursue any job (political or not) without question of their faith, would they really not care to convince others that God does not exist?

On a different note, a person's true faith (not just professed, but lived) influences how one leads their life. Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Atheist, it shapes and becomes a huge part of your worldview. And politicians and other public servants will always be evaluated partially on this. Unfortunately politicians will say whatever they need to get elected (true or not).

Derek
Akron, Ohio

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